Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' sick bay empty, but not a lot of change on bench

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Evander Kane will return to the lineup Thursday night for the Winnipeg Jets, having missed six games with his infected hand, the latest injury of his intermittent season.

That's the only change Jets coach Paul Maurice is expecting to make, even after he announced on Tuesday the team has a healthy lineup, save for defenceman Grant Clitsome, who's out for the season following back surgery.

That's something for the Jets.

They've been without veteran centre Jim Slater since October after sports hernia surgery, and forward Matt Halischuk has been out more than two months because of a broken right arm.

Though Kane, Slater and Halischuk have all been cleared for action, the coach isn't big on change after guiding the team to a 9-3-1 mark in his first 13 games.

"I have to clear them, too, and I'm still watching them in practice and have to watch them play," Maurice said after Tuesday's practice. "My first reaction is that I liked the way our hockey team was playing prior to the break, so those players get the nod early and then we'll make adjustments as we go."

Slater has played just eight games this season.

Halischuk has played 30 but hasn't been in a game since Dec. 14.

"You've definitely got to earn your way back off the IR," the 25-year-old forward said. "I just look at this as an opportunity to come in and see what I can do.

"It's exciting to be part of the group here and going forward, we're all looking to have a strong playoff push here."

While Maurice is wary today of automatically injecting 670 games of NHL experience into his lineup (Slater's 483 games and Halischuk's 187), the Jets do have to be conscious of roster issues for the next week.

They had 21 active players going into the Olympic break. Kane's return from the injured reserve list makes 22.

The maximum until the trade deadline is 23, so both Slater and Halischuk couldn't be activated without subtracting one player from the roster.

Halischuk could agree to a conditioning stint, though it's not known if the Jets would consider doing that to temporarily get around the maximum.

After next Wednesday's trade deadline, the team can have 24 or more active players, so long as they're compliant with the league's $64.3-million annual salary cap on a daily basis.

 

JETCETERA: The Jets have nine of their first 12 games after the break at home... Maurice said Tuesday the team, which has been on the ice since last Wednesday, is quite ready to resume the schedule. "There's never a stretch of hockey that you practise as much as we've just practised," he said. "Not even in training camp, when you're into an exhibition game in Day 3 or 4. We're done with it. I'm done with practising. We've got one more to get through. We'll be professionals and keep focus but there isn't a guy in the room not wishing we were playing (tonight)."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 C3

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